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Talks delayed while Israelis choose stance

A U.S.-brokered meeting between Yasser Arafat's deputy and the Israeli foreign minister in Washington is being postponed because Israel's government has yet to decide on its negotiating positions, a senior Palestinian official said Monday.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had hoped to play host to the talks between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, sometime this week, though no specific date was set.Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters that American officials had formally notified the Palestinians on Sunday of the delay, adding that no new timetable had been set.

"The fact that Mr. Levy does not have a mandate reveals what we have known all along, that Mr. (Benjamin) Netanyahu does not want to negotiate," Erekat said, referring to Israel's prime minister.

The Israeli Cabinet is to meet Wednesday to discuss Israel's negotiating positions.